Love Really is in the Air: Here's How to Breathe It
Every breath you take can influence your ability to experience love.
If that sounds crazy, don’t worry, that’s how I felt too.
But it turns out that your capacity to love is highly linked to the state of your nervous system, which is highly connected to your breath.
In fact, every breath you take subtly influences your nervous system. And when you breathe in specific ways, you can increase your aptitude to experience more love throughout your day.
But before we get into the details, let’s start with a simple question:
What is Love?
We all have our own idea of what love means. But, Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina, looks at love differently. She examines what love is not only in our minds, but also in our bodies.
From her research, Dr. Fredrickson has come to define love as a micro-moment of “positivity resonance” between you and another person. This positivity resonance occurs when two people share positive emotions, synchronize their bodies and brains, and mutual care for each other emerges. As she says, it becomes “a single act, performed by two brains.”
With love defined this way, let’s look at how it’s intricately related to breathing.
The First Prerequisite to Love: Safety
For love to occur, the first precondition is a feeling of safety. Dr. Fredrickson says: “Positivity resonance doesn’t spring up at random...The first precondition is a perception of safety. If you assess your current circumstances as threatening or dangerous in any way, love is not at that moment a possibility for you.”
Here’s our first breath-love connection. Most slow breathing practices (breathing at a rate below 10 breaths a minute) activate the calming parasympathetic nervous system, acting as a biological hack for feeling safe. This will set the stage for you to experience more love.
Breathing is Also a Form of Self-Love
Another prerequisite for love is self-love. As the old saying goes, you must love yourself before you can love others. For us, this presents another link back to breathing.
Taking care of our physical and mental health through a daily slow breathing practice is perhaps the best form of self-love. It nourishes us physically, mentally, and spiritually. According to Dr. Fredrickson, any self-love practice will “condition your mind, heart, eyes, and ears to be more prepared for positivity resonance when true connections become possible.”
Thus, slow breathing makes us feel safe, but it also serves as a self-love practice, conditioning our hearts and minds to experience more love throughout the day.
So far, we’ve mainly discussed the emotional side of love. But there’s one more link to cover. The real magic behind the breath-love connection is physiological: it’s our vagus nerve.
The Physiological Breath-Love Connection: The Vagus Nerve
Our vagus nerve is the primary nerve of the parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) nervous system. When our vagus nerve has a healthy “tone” (sort of like having good muscle tone), we are generally healthier and more resilient.
But what Dr. Fredrickson and one of her students discovered was that our vagal tone also predicts our ability to love. She puts it like this:
“High vagal tone, then, can be taken as high loving potential... Compared to people with lower vagal tone, those with higher vagal tone experience more love in their daily lives, more moments of positivity resonance.”
This is where the real power of breathing comes in. Research has shown that just five minutes of slow breathing can immediately increase our vagal tone. Moreover, long-term practice of 10-20 minutes daily can boost our baseline vagal tone.
Together, we see that by increasing our vagal tone, slow breathing literally increases our physiological ability to love.
A Breath of Love
To summarize, breathing and love are closely connected. When we practice slow breathing, it helps us feel safe, increases our vagal tone, and serves as a form of self-love. This boosts our loving potential, both mentally and physically.
So, practice your breathing (you can use the free Breathwrk subscription you received with your ResB purchase), and enjoy experiencing more love in your life.